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Trip Report: Venice, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, Rome


Aug 13th, 2006, 08:34 AM
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My DH really was not enjoying the coastal buses, so we opted instead for an option we had read about on this forum. We hitched a ride with a few Canadians to Positano (in exchange for my DH carrying their suitcases up the many stairs from Le Sirene!) From Positano, we caught a boat from the Positano beach (from Travelmar Linea Intercostiera, 70 min, 6.5 E each) to Salerno. This was a very enjoyable trip. The boat was practically empty and we greatly enjoyed the view of the Amalfi Coast along the way. From Salerno, we caught a train to Rome (25 E each, 2.5hrs). The train station is a short walk from the port.
In Rome, we easily caught the #40 bus from just outside the train station (1E each). While in Rome, we mainly walked since our hotel was very centrally located. We also took a few taxis which were surprisingly reasonable. On the one day we did try to use the subways to go across town, there was a strike!

Hotel: Castel Sant Angelo House, Via Del Banco Di Santo Spirito, 21 Roma,
http://www.bed-breakfast-colonnato.c...antangelo.aspx, 110E/night

I found this B&B through Venere.com. We actually only paid 95E/night due to a booking mistake. (We’d originally booked Al Colonato di San Pietro, but there was a booking error and got this B & B owned by the same couple) We loved this B&B. We were actually a spare room in a Roman couple’s apartment. From the moment we booked, the owner, Rosa Maria was very helpful on exact directions to the apt and tips on traveling in Rome. When we arrived, she had a map of Rome ready for us and laid out many of the sites to see and ways to get there. She even had reserved our tickets to the Papal Audience for the next day. Our room was beautifully decorated, and probably the largest room we had while in Italy. Breakfast was also very nice, brought in on a cart with all of the items we had chosen from night before, and lots of other choices. It included toast, croissants, yogurt, cereal, juice, milk, hot chocolate, coffee, or tea (or all 3!) There was also a basket of a variety of nice fresh fruit in our room, stocked daily which was a wonderful treat. We were a 5-10 minute walk from the Vatican & a 20 minute walk from ancient Rome. The only downfall was a restaurant that did dishes around midnight below the room! Otherwise, this was a wonderful place to stay!


Hosteria del Curato: Via Del Banco Di Santo Spirito (just south of Castel Sant Angelo)
We ate here our first night in Rome. For 23.60 Euros, my DH had Ravioli (which we thought tasted like Chef Boyardee!) And I had Spinach Canneloni. We also had drinks and gelato. I don’t think I’d recommend the dinner, but the gelato was excellent-especially the strawberry! (They have a regular gelateria you can order from)

Osteria da Narone: Via delle Terme di Tito 96 (near the Colosseum):
This restaurant was a little difficult to find, but has especially fond memories because of the friends we were with! My DH and I each had a pasta dish, bread, wine, water, and dessert for 33E. Although I don’t remember what we ordered, I remember our pasta being particularly good and also enjoying the wine.

La Focaccia Pizzeria: Via della Pace 11, (From Piazza Navona, go West on the Northern most street that comes out of the Piazza and follow it to Via della Pace, turn South. Restaurant has no sign, just a small business card on the wall that looks like the one on their website: www.1stmuse.com/focaccia/index-e.htm) We ordered fried mozzarella, cokes, split a mixed vegetable pizza and dessert for 31.50E. They brought our split pizza out in the shape of a heart! They have a wood-burning oven. The pizza was thin and crispy and the ingredients were so fresh! Its making my mouth water just writing about it! We also had a wonderful dessert called “3 types of chocolate” which we assumed was 3 different types of chocolate dessert. It was actually 3 kinds of chocolate pudding/custard/fudge-ish type goodness all in one bowl-absolutely wonderful!!

Osteria da Mario: Piazza delle Coppelle 51, north of the Pantheon
At this restaurant, we each enjoyed pasta dishes, fried zucchini (split), wine, water, and dessert for 27E. My DH and I both enjoyed homemade pastas-yummy! This was our last meal in Italy, and a quite enjoyable one! The outside seating was nice and the food was very good. We enjoyed this meal with our friends again, who also really liked this restaurant.

Day #10

We arrived in Rome late in the afternoon and got a great introduction to Rome from Rosa Maria (see hotel, above) She had reserved tickets for us to the Papal Audience for the next day, so we headed up to the Vatican to pick them up. (10 minute walk) We walked to a special line by the Bronze Door, spoke with the Swiss Guards, were ushered past, and received our tickets. The line to get into St Peters was almost nonexistent at that time, too (5:30 pm) so we headed in. We pretty much walked right in, and were immediately in awe. We stayed until around 7:00 and it was quite an experience as it was practically empty, and such a place of reverence. Audio guides, John Paul II’s tomb, and the Dome were not open at that time, so we decided we had to come back to finish those things. We walked around the rest of the Vatican for a while, then back to our neighborhood, grabbed some supper, and back to our room to do some laundry (It was mandatory by this point, we had put it off for so long!)

Day #11

We woke up early and headed back up to the Vatican for the Papal Audience. We had friends we were meeting there who were saving seats. (Friends who by the strangest and most wonderful coincidence happened to be in Rome at the same time as us!) They had gotten fairly close for the Audience (we are all Catholic) and we sat and waited for the Pope catching up on our vacations thus far. (They had been to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and now Rome) They had gotten there around 8 am, and had fairly good seats. Pope Benedict came out and traveled all the aisles in his Popemobile and spoke in about 8 languages. Prior to him doing his sermon in that language, they announced all the groups from that country and they would stand and cheer (like at a ballgame-it was pretty funny!) From the time the Pope came out until it was over, it was probably around 2 hours. It was really a great experience. Tickets are free and can be obtained from the Church of Santa Susanna in Rome, requesting your hotel to reserve them, or if you are Catholic, I believe you can write to your diocese and obtain them.
After the Audience, we decided the Vatican would probably be too busy to try to see, so we headed over to ancient Rome. We walked from the B & B. (20-25 minutes) We saw the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument (free) Roman forum (free) Palantine Hill (11E combo ticket with Colosseum). A lot has been said about these, so I won’t add much, unless anyone has specific questions. The only thing I will add is to make sure you have a good guide book to know what you are looking at. It is all very awe-inspiring, provided you know what you are looking at! We bought a book from one of the street vendors for 15E, which is called “Rome monuments, past and present” and has nice overlays of ancient Rome in its time and the current look of the monuments. It helped to put the remnants in perspective. This was the only place I really wish we had booked a tour.
After an afternoon alone in ancient Rome (our friends had Scavi Tour reservations), we met back up again at the Colosseum and were able to bypass lines due to having bought our tickets at Palantine Hill. After the Colosseum, we went to Osteria da Narone, and had a great time. On the way back from dinner, we walked by the Trevi Fountain, which was very beautiful lit up at night. (Although the most crowded landmark we saw in all of Italy!!) I had to throw a coin in, of course!

Day #12

We had Scavi reservations for 9:00 am, so we headed back up to the Vatican. On the way, we met another couple who were also headed toward the Scavi office. Turns out they didn’t have reservations and were extremely disappointed they couldn’t get in! (10E each; I emailed Jan 18th, heard back March 23rd) The Scavi Tour was fantastic. Our tour guide, Anthony, had just graduated with his masters in Theology from a school in Austria, and was very interested and excited about the material he was telling us about. It is very interesting, and I would highly recommend it for anyone, and it has a even a more special meaning for those of us who are Catholic.
After the Scavi Tour, we saw John Paul II’s tomb, and the tombs of many other popes buried underneath St Peters. We also went up into the Dome (4E each if you decide to climb all 551 stairs or 7E each if you decide to ride the elevator- saves about 150 steps) Both are worth the wait. Seeing St Peters from inside the Dome, and the Vatican and the rest of Rome outside the Dome, are pretty amazing.
Grabbed a bite to eat just outside the Vatican Museums and had a delicious panini with “rockets”, tomato and cheese and a homemade pastry. Once again, a simple but delicious lunch for about 7E. After lunch, we headed to the Vatican Museums. Lines were pretty short by this time (1:30 pm) and we headed right in. Unfortunately, we realized we didn’t have enough cash for the entrance fee(12E each-they don’t take credit cards) so we headed to find an ATM and ended up back at the entrance about 30 minutes later. Luckily we got right in, purchased an Audioguide (6E) and made our way through the museums to the Sistine Chapel. The musuems were extremely crowded, however, a must see! I would definitely recommend an audioguide as things are not well labeled. I would also recommend at least 3 hours, as we were a little rushed with only about 2.5 hours. So much has been written about the Sistine Chapel, and of course, it was breathtaking!
After the musuems, we did a little souvenior shopping, wrote postcards then headed out to dinner at Foccacia Pizzeria (see Restaurants above). After dinner, we hit an internet café in the area (1.60E for 30 minutes) and enjoyed walking Rome at night.

Day #13

When we woke up, we were saddened by the fact that this was our last day in Italy; our last day of Nina’s breakfast cart, afternoon siestas, authentic Italian food, cheap wine, and Italians. We had attempted to get tickets to the Borghese gallery about a month prior to our trip (can be reserved through their website or by calling) but unfortunately the tickets were sold out for the entire day! (The museum had been closed all week in preparation for a new exhibit and this day was the first day it was opened. I do not think it is normally booked so far in advance) We started out the morning by heading to the Campo de Fiori Market. This was a fun experience. We wished we wouldn’t have eaten so much breakfast, or we may have bought some fruit! It all looked wonderful. There were fruits, veggies, meats, fish, flowers, souveniors, and lots of other goodies. This is definitely worth a stop!
After the market, we dropped our purchases back by the room and headed to the Pantheon (Free, but audioguides are available for a small fee) The Pantheon is another must see. With the architecture, Rapheal’s grave, the level of preservation, and the neighborhood, it is simply amazing.
After the Pantheon, we headed to Piazza di Spagna/Spanish steps. We were a bit disappointed in the steps. Trinita dei Monti was under scaffolding and the steps were void of flowers (as we had seen in all the pictures!) After sitting on the steps for a while, we went to catch the subway to meet our friends on the other side of town, but unfortunately, there was a strike! So we decided to start walking in the general direction of San Giovanni of Laterano in hopes to find a taxi stand along the way. We ended up hiking the whole way, mostly because by partway through our walk, we were just entranced in Rome and sort of forgot we were needing a taxi! (This ended up being a 60 minute walk!) We walked by St Peter’s in Chains and stopped for a quick peek. The Church and Michaelangelo’s Moses were worth the stop. We met our friends at San Giovanni in Laterano, a very beautiful church SE of the Colosseum. (They also have a cute little giftshop ran by nuns) After touring the Church, we split a taxi to Piazza Navona. The Piazza was pretty happening. We decided to try to go to dinner at Foccacia Pizzeria. Well it was a bit early, and the staff told us to come back at 6:30. We walked the area and toured some more churches including San Luigi dei Francesi, the Church of St Ignazio, and another I can’t remember the name of. (Of course, I had to light a candle in each one to ensure our safe passage back to the States the next day By that time, it was 6:30, so we headed back to Foccacia Pizzeria. Unfortunately, the staff was eating, and they told us to come back at 7:30! We were a bit put off by this, so decided to eat elsewhere, however, I would still reccommend this restaurant! We walked some more and found dinner at Osteria di Maria (see restaurants, above) We drank too much wine, had a wonderful dinner, and greatly enjoyed our last evening in Rome.
EvenMary is offline  
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Aug 13th, 2006, 01:20 PM
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Beautiful report Mary! And I thought it was mandatory to get "lost" while driving in Italy, lol. We always did. Thank you for sharing your trip..I wish you two many more.
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Aug 13th, 2006, 01:25 PM
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What a wonderful trip - tell me about the buses along the Amalfi Coast. How did you get the details and manage this? (We'll be there next month & would like to bus from town to town but haven't done any research to figure out the ins and outs of this mode of transport.)
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Aug 13th, 2006, 01:38 PM
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Reading about your trip has been so wonderful. I am going to Italy next May for my 30th birthday w/family. After having read this I am going to follow the same/similar (venice/tuscany/amalfi/rome) itenary. Still a few things I need to think about, but I do have some time! Thank you so much for your post!
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Aug 13th, 2006, 03:31 PM
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Loveitaly-Yes, we definitely did our part in the getting lost bit!! We did see some beautiful countryside, though.

DFM-We didn't find the buses on the coast difficult. Our hotel had a schedule, and there were schedules posted at most of the stops. The buses also had a destination point posted on the bus, or we would just ask the driver if we weren't sure. The only downfall was that there were always lots of people waiting for the bus, and there tended to be somewhat of a mob mentality when the bus pulled up! But, we always got a ride, whether we were standing or sitting.

zeta-You are welcome! The only downfall to our itenerary was that we wished we wouldn't have done Rome last. There is so much to see and do in Rome, and we were a little tired by the time we got there. We managed to get in almost everything we wanted to do, though. I also wished we would've gotten to see a little bit of Florence, too, but it just wasn't in the cards for us. We are really glad, however, we chose to stay in Tuscany as opposed to another big city. We really felt like we took in more of the Italian culture, and were able to get away from the touristy areas. It may be a long time before we get back there, but Florence will be first on our list when we do.
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Aug 13th, 2006, 03:49 PM
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Enjoyed your report. It's so inspiring to hear about people who have faced all kinds of challenges on a holiday and still have a positive attitude. Lots of good tips, too.
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Aug 18th, 2006, 04:27 AM
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Aug 18th, 2006, 07:41 AM
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THank you for your report. Especially about Le Sirene. We will be there in October for our honeymoon (2 nights in Rome, 5 nights in Praiano, 5 nights in Venice) and reading your report brought tears to my eyes! It is going to be such an amazing time for us!

It is also so good to hear how your managed to stay within a reasonable price range.

Thank you!!!
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Aug 18th, 2006, 09:29 AM
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thanks for the great trip report Mary! sorry to hear you had such a time navigating. Le Sirene and La Brace really are excellent aren't they?

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Aug 19th, 2006, 08:21 AM
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A quick apology for the paragraphs in my report. I didn't realize until after I had posted it all that the indents at the beginnings of the paragraphs are taken out once you copy and paste. Darn, if I would've known that, I would've added spaces between paragraphs. Sorry-makes it much harder to read now...

rickmav-We had a wonderful time and would do it again!

caroldes-Le Sirene is wonderful. It was such a nice break from the hustle and bustle of all of the touristy things we had been doing. At that point, I think I would've been content staying in Praiano the whole time on the coast, only I knew at some point I probably would've regretted not seeing the rest of the coast! And I'm glad we did! We were also pleasantly surprised that we didn't spend as much money on the entire trip as we thought we would. I am so thankful for people on this board who helped us find great places for great prices.

Dayle-yes, La Brace is wonderful. The view, the food, the staff! On the 2nd night we were there, my DH was giving me a hard time because I ordered a pizza with "rockets" (this was the only explanation the waiter could give for an Italian ingredient I didn't know, and I didn't know what it was, but I ordered anyway-turns out it was spinach leaves, which was actually pretty good) He ordered spaghetti with scampi, thinking it would have little bits of scampi in the pasta. When he got it, it had 2 VERY large whole scampi, and he sort of panicked not knowing exactly how to eat it. After attempting to explain in our broken Italian that he didn't know how to eat it, (we couldn't think of the word for how, so we ended up using hand gestures) the waiter came over and worked for a while on the scampi to obtain the edible part and placed it on top of DH's spaghetti. Turns out the edible part was exactly where he thought it was, but it was a funny story anyway! We just don't eat a lot of seafood here, we live in Kansas
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Aug 19th, 2006, 01:08 PM
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Dear Mary,

I have loved reading about your trip! I want to know what you took in the way of clothing and what other people are wearing. I'm going to Italy at the end of September and I want to be appropriately dressed and comfortable. Any packing tips you have would be appreciated.
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Aug 21st, 2006, 05:02 AM
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hi EvenMary
I had the most fabulous afternoon reading your trip report. We're planning a drive down vacation ( sept end) and i was wondering why you let go of your rental car while in Sorrento rather than using it for exploring the Amalfi Coast especially since you guys drove all the way there. ( And also because your DH didnt particulary like the coastal bus experience) Im fascinated with the idea of driving along the coastline and was also wondering if the trip from Florence to Sorrento was scenic?
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Aug 21st, 2006, 05:25 AM
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Thanks for the great report....planning similar next May!
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Aug 21st, 2006, 06:46 AM
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Hi EvenMary,
I just spend the last hour reading your fascinating report and looking at all your beautiful pictures! Thank you so much, I just loved your review!!!

We are going to Venice, Rome and the Amalfi Coast (in that order) next June so I really enjoyed all your wonderful details!

I do have a couple of questions if you don't mind answering. First, we will be in Venice for 3 nights, and I'm a little concerned about the jetlag coming from the Boston and am wondering if 3 nights are enough. What did you think about staying only 2 nights?

Also, we originally planned to stay at LeSirene, but since we're traveling with teenagers, we thought Positano would be a better choice overall. By this point in the trip, I'm sure they are going to want to do their own thing and check out the area by themselves for awhile. Based on your experience, what do you think?

Thanks again!!
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Aug 21st, 2006, 11:32 AM
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Rocket is not spinach but Arugula a bitter green, very delicious in salads etc.

Good report. My DH and I also travelled to italy during the month of May. We also had the experience of getting lost in tuscany....so I had to laugh at your report.
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Aug 23rd, 2006, 07:29 AM
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concerto- We took clothing that layered and could be washed out and worn again. I took a pair of jeans, a pair of capris, a pair of khakis, and shirts that could be worn with any of these (mostly black or white, with a few other colors mixed in) I took one black cardigan type sweater that could be worn over anything, and ended up wearing it many of the evenings we were there. I also took sneakers (yes, white ones , which a lot of people might advise against, but I was going for comfort and shopped for quite a long time trying to find something as comfortable as those that looked a little classier, but could find nothing that was as comfortable to me! I saw lots of people who were wearing sneakers as well, probably all tourists, but my feet didn't hurt at the end of the day!! ) and a pair of nicer black shoes to wear. We took travel size bottles of toiletries and old socks that we threw away before the return trip. I also took a small spray bottle that I filled with water in each hotel, and would spray out and hang clothes for the next morning to get rid of wrinkles. I packed in large ziploc bags so that I would only need to open 1 or 2 at each hotel which made repacking easy. Packing lightly really really paid off. My DH and I shared a suitcase and then carried a backpack for carry-on. I am such a heavy packer normally, but am SO glad we both packed lightly, as it was so much more convenient for traveling around.

sharanis- The reason we drove all the way to Sorrento to drop the car is because I wanted to visit Assisi and Pompeii on the way, and there didn't seem to be a more convenient place to drop the car (without driving into Naples) We chose not to have the car on the coast because we had heard numerous stories about the roads and parking and were a little hesitant. Also, the bus system is pretty convenient, so we didn't think we would need a car. Looking back now, I can see how at times the car would've been nice on the coast so we wouldn't have had to wait on buses. However, the roads were somewhat scary at times, and with my DH's limited experience with the manual car, I'm very glad we chose to drop it off! But then again, we are from a small town in the Midwest, so I don't think I speak for everyone here! Also, something else to keep in mind, that if you are the driver, you don't get to apprciate the scenery as much. I don't remember the drive to Sorrento being particularly scenic, but we were on the autostrada up to Naples, and I think that cuts out some of the scenery, although shortens the drive considerably.

Rosie-glad you enjoyed!

Jay-I think 3 nights in Venice would be enough. We only had 2 nights, but could've used a 3rd. Venice really isn't too large, and we walked around most of the city in the 1.5 days we were there. However, we could've used the extra day for exploring some of the islands, or just soaking up more of Venice. After a short nap, we recovered from jetlag fairly quickly (and we had been traveling for almost 24 hours) And although I absolutely loved Praiano and Le Sirene, I would probably choose Positano with teenagers as there is more to see and do in the evenings, especially if they are wanting to explore by themselves for a while.

Jocy-thanks for clearing up the rockets! I didn't think it was spinach, but couldn't figure out what exactly it was. I won't forget now! It sounds like a lot of people have gotten lost in Tuscany, so I don't feel like such a bad navigator now!
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Jan 16th, 2007, 09:27 AM
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Hi Mary,

I too am from KCMO! I just moved back from Del Mar, CA...I broadcast for KCMO 710 News. I'll be going to Rome March 28th thru April 4th. I'm wondering if your aware of any private tour guides to the Amalfi Coast? I will be traveling alone...
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Jan 17th, 2007, 04:24 AM
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Thanks for the info, EvenMary! We decided to stay in Positano!! Can't wait!!
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